I hate gnomes.
Not the race themselves.
But the way D&D have dealt with them.
In 5th edition there are two versions: forest gnomes and rock gnomes (which are basically tinker gnomes).
I dislike both of these subtypes.
But, it’s not just the subtypes I dislike – there is a larger issue here.
D&D has never really decided where gnomes fit in.
And this issue has been prevalent throughout all editions of D&D, so I am not picking on 5th edition here.
Gnomes throughout the various editions have been both forest-loving illusionists who are inquisitive and love to build and create.
AD&D and 2nd edition had them as lovers of life, practical jokes, and precious stones, and this continues throughout most of the editions.
At the same time they are illusionists or resistant to illusion magic, and inventors and engineers.
All the while living in well-wooded hills, basking in both underground and the surface worlds, chatting away to small burrowing animals.
This sounds like at least three distinct races to me.
And maybe you could split these out as 5th edition tried to, creating two subraces: forest gnome and rock gnome.
But the issue I have with all this is that’s it too much diversity for one race.
You would have thought at some point, the designers would have just picked one background and existence for gnomes.
Instead, they have kept the themes of tinkerer, forest gnome, and illusion specialist and tried to meld them into a cohesive narrative that just doesn’t fit.
I Heart Gnomes
I started this post saying a I hate gnomes, but in reality I love them.
Which is why I want to save them.
I knew when I started my sandbox campaign world, I would have to change the gnome. Luckily, no-one played one (maybe they felt the same way I did) and so I had time to flesh them out.
The Seeker Gnome was born.
I decided on the theme of magic-users, but not in the “mystical creatures” angle, but rather, I weaved in another traditional gnome theme of focused individuals who are always inventing.
But not in the tinkering sense, in the studious sense.
And I expanded the illusionist specialty to include all schools of magic.
What I ended up with was a race of dedicated souls who use their intelligence and tenacity to become studious magic-users in response to a dark history.
With that in mind, I give you my Gnome (or, Seeker Gnome, as I call them).
You can also download a PDF version.
I am keen on feedback and this is merely a first draft.
One of my players decided to play a gnome wizard in the last campaign I ran and she had some good things to say about it:
Its also a nice way of making it clear that gnomes are inherently knowledgeable about magic and arcana – kind of like how you get the vibe from wood elves that they’re really in tune with nature.
This sums up why I created the gnome the way I did, and I hope you get some use out of it.
Over to You
Do you like the gnome as written in the PHB? Do you have your own take on them?
6 Replies to “Gnomes – A New Take”
This is interesting, I’m considering a gnome wizard as my next character and went down a nearly identical mental path for what I would want to play as a gnome!
That’s very cool! I think this makes gnomes a little more playable as they are not trying to be a myriad of different things all at once.
Probably use a different art for it, as that’s the iconic Pathfinder halfling bard.
Hey Josh. Yeah, it was pretty much an image filler. I have changed the gnome a little more since then to suit my home campaign, so will mostly likely re-vamp this soon.
I agree with you on how Gnomes are handled. The official rules treat them something like the redheaded bastard child of a Halfling and a Dwarf. There just doesn’t seem to be a purpose for them.
However I take them in a much different direction. In my sand box world Gnomes are highly organized and driven as a race. They live mostly in seclusion but are highly trained engineers with a much higher level of technology then the rest of the world. Something along the lines of clockpunk where the rest of the world is stuck in a more typical high fantasy swords and sorcery setting.
An interesting take. Is their tech easily available? How does it flow into (or not) the rest of the game?